In November, thousands of students in the TDSB celebrate two important events – Remembrance Day and Aboriginal Education Month. It is a time of reflection and enquiry when we examine our past and look to the future.
Recognizing the month provides an opportunity to re-examine how Aboriginal perspectives, histories and contemporary realities are crucial to our understanding of Canada. Aboriginal education is not just for First Nations, Métis and Inuit students but for all students and staff. Knowledge of the diverse and rich cultures of our Aboriginal people leads to cross-cultural understandings that enrich all citizens.
The legacy of broken treaties and residential schools has been a shameful time in Canadian history, so it’s more important than ever to collaborate with community members to learn about and address the consequences of the injustices. The recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission mustn’t lie on the shelf but become a reality.
As a tangible example of the TDSB desire to teach our students about our Canadian heritage the TDSB has declared that at the beginning of all meetings of the board and in all schools of the board the following words are to be said:
“I would like to acknowledge that this school is situated upon traditional territories. These territories include the Wendat, the Anishinabek (A NISH NA BECK) Nation, the Haudenosaunee (HOE DENA SHOW NEE) Confederacy, the Mississaugas of the New Credit and the Métis Nation. I would also recognize the enduring presence of Aboriginal peoples on this land.”
Aboriginal peoples have a long history of defending Canada and supporting its war efforts abroad. Aboriginal soldiers have been highly praised for their courage and front-line efforts from the War of 1812 to World Wars I and II and the Korean War. On Remembrance Day and throughout Veterans’ Week many students learn about the contributions and sacrifices of Canada’s Aboriginal veterans.
As well, in classrooms across the city on Remembrance Day, November 11, students recognize the sacrifices of former students, talk about war and peace, and learn about freedom and oppression. They learn about the battles of Vimy Ridge in 1917 or Juno Beach in 1944. It’s a time when students reflect upon our values as Canadians and honour those who work hard to make sure that we remain safe and secure.
In our local schools assemblies are being held and members of the Legion have been invited to address students. As well as recognizing a moment of silence, classes and staff have put together presentations with poetry, songs and dramatic perofrmances to tell the stories that remember our history and help children understand the significance of the day and the resilience of those who have fought for their country. We also want our young people to be resilient when they face difficult times.
So as the weather cools and trees lose their leaves, there is focused attention in TDSB schools to learning about the history of our Aboriginal people and the contributions of our veterans. We are preparing students to be contributing and respectful citizens in a world of peace.
Gerri Gershon is the Trustee, Don Valley West, for the Toronto District School Board